Sr. Concetta Coppe


I was born in a little town, Paderno del Grappa, in the Venetian Region of the pre-Alps of Italy.  I am the 7th of 9 children. The 9th child, Mario, died three hours after his birth and my mother died three days after him. I was two years old at the time of my mother’s death and she was 37. My father was left to care for 8 small children. I was told by my aunt that before dying my mother had asked my father to marry her best friend and first cousin, Maria. (Who was preparing herself to enter Religious Life). In her dying moment my mother’s only desire was the reassurance that her children will have a mother to care for them and my father kept the promise and after six months married her cousin, Maria.

I believe that I was born with the ‘the call’ to be a religious sister and that it was transmitted from my mother’s womb. In my family the story is that when my mother was pregnant with me she said, ‘If this  child that I carry is a girl I pray that she would become a religious sister. ‘ And so it was…I grew up with this in my heart and mind since my kindergarten days and my desire to enter religious life never left me.  One morning at twelve while with my older sister in Padua, I went to the nearby Canossian Convent and knocked at their door to ask to be accepted as an aspirant.  My decision was resolute and would not move from there… consequently the Superior called my parents to obtain permission and also to find out a bit more about me as they did not know me.  I was allowed to remain and later on I was sent to Venice to join the group of aspirants and continue my education in secondary school and for kindergarten teaching.

At 17 I was ready to enter Postulancy but a sudden and severe hemorrhage to my left eye caused a delay of almost three years. Finally in 1959 I made my formal entry in the novitiate of Venice. My ardent desire was to be a missionary so while still a novice I was sent to the Canossian missionary novitiate of Venerate-Milan to complete my formation as a missionary. After my first Profession of vows I was first sent to Rome to study nursing. After nursing I was sent to England for a few months and in April 1965 I was sent to this great land, Australia. I arrived in Oxley when the new Canossa Hospital building was almost completed.  At the time the 40 patients occupied the transformed old school of the Ursuline sisters from whom we purchased the place and land.  In December of the same year we transferred all the patient into the new Canossa Hospital building.  I was placed as the ward sister of the first floor and I remember how hard it was not to be able to understand or speak fully the ‘English- Australian’ language. The staff were wonderful and very helpful and we able to communicate discretely well… it was challenging and I enjoyed every bit of it with enthusiasm…

Three years later I was asked by the Congregational Leader who was visiting us at the time to go to  Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, as Director of Nursing for a newly opened clinic for severely disabled children with respiratory disorders. The clinic was called ‘Casa Angelica’ or  ‘House of the Angels’.  There were 25 children from six months to 5 years of age.  I discovered this huge change with a different kind of nursing. I also went back to night study at New Mexico University  to  study ‘special education’ as well as nursing to obtain the American nursing registration. It was a great challenge but the strength and the grace of God helped me to overcome all.  I loved those children and felt like a mother in caring for them. Two years after my arrival in Albuquerque in 1968 I made my Final Vows in the Parish of the Annunciation. I was so happy in the Lord for this final step in my religious life!   In 1976 after 9 year and six months in America, the Lord, through obedience called me back to Australia!  Back to Canossa Hospital, back to Oxley community serving in different roles.  Yet wherever I am, the song that constantly rings in my ears is, “How lovely is your dwelling place Lord God of Host!”


Sr Concetta at the official opening of Canossa Home.